Health IT Stimulus Programs Taking Shape

The federal government continues to move ahead with implementing various provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  This update summarizes certain significant recent developments.

Health IT

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology announced plans to award $564 million in cooperative agreements to states and qualified State Designated Entities (SDEs) for statewide health information exchange.  Applications and strategic and operational plans are due by Oct. 16.

ONC also announced plans to award $598 million for its Health Information Technology Extension Program to support 70 regional extension centers. 

The extension program will hold three application cycles.  For each cycle, applicants must first submit a preliminary application. 

ONC has notified applicants whether they are invited to submit a full application.  Applications for the first cycle were due in early September, and full proposals were due later in the month.

Applications for the remaining cycles will be due Dec. 22 and June 1, 2010. 

Last month, CMS sent state Medicaid directors a letter outlining reimbursement for state payments to health care providers who participate in the health IT stimulus program and demonstrate meaningful use.

CMS published a notice last month to solicit comments on the required state health IT planning documents for the electronic health record incentive program.  Comments are due by Nov. 10.  

The Health IT Policy Committee met in August and September and recommended establishing multiple bodies to certify EHR systems based on a standard set of criteria outlined by both ONC and HHS.

The committee’s Meaningful Use Workgroup will hold an informal hearing in October to take public comments.  The Policy Committee also held a public hearing to gather information related to health IT privacy and security.

The Health IT Standards Committee also held meetings in August and September and adopted the recently approved Health IT Policy Committee measures for the privacy-related meaningful use recommendations.

Medicaid/FMAP

In August, CMS sent state Medicaid directors a letter outlining the “maintenance of effort” (MOE) provisions associated with the Increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentage under ARRA.

Privacy and Security

The Federal Trade Commission finalized its breach notification rule for personal health record vendors and other organizations not covered under HIPAA.  The rule became effective Sept. 24. 

HHS released its interim final “breach-notification” regulations requiring health care providers and other HIPAA-covered entities to notify affected individuals of breaches of unsecured protected health information.  The rule became effective Sept. 23.  Comments on the interim final rule are due Oct. 23.

Work Force Training and Development

HHS announced $13.4 million for loan repayments to nurses who agree to practice in facilities with critical shortages and for nursing schools to provide loans to nurses who will become faculty. 

The Department of Labor posted a webinar on its announced $225 million in work force development grants that addressed the health care industry. Registration is mandatory.

Last month, the Health Resources and Services Administration announced $33 million for health care professional training to address work force shortages.

The Federal Communications Commission held a “Disabilities Opportunities” workshop to address broadband access for people with disabilities and will hold another on Oct. 20.

Community Health Centers

Last month, HHS announced awards totaling $27.8 million in ARRA funding to health center-controlled networks and large multi-site health centers to implement EHRs and other health IT innovations. A listing of grant recipients is available online.

Prevention and Wellness

HHS last month announced $650 million in funding for community prevention and wellness activities.  The first batch of funds, totaling $373 million, is available under CDC’s Communities Putting Prevention To Work initiative.  A letter of intent is due by Oct. 30 and the full application is due by Dec. 1. The remaining $277 million will be available soon to states, territories and organizations that “support, extend and evaluate the reach and impact” of these activities.

Last month, NIH announced grant opportunities for $30 million for a new Building Sustainable Community-Linked Infrastructure To Enable Health Science Research program aimed at facilitating collaboration between academic health centers and community-based organizations for health science research.  Letters of intent are due by Nov. 12 and applications are due by Dec. 11, 2009.

Comparative Effectiveness

Last month, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced $100 million in funding to support research focused on translating new scientific knowledge into evidence-based practice and decision-making in health care.  Letters of intent are due by Nov. 18 and applications are due by Dec. 16.

General News

Recipients of a grant, loan or contract of more than $25,000 under ARRA are required to file quarterly reports through www.federalreporting.gov beginning Oct. 1.  Registration for Recovery recipient reporting began Aug. 17.

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